AY- Lesson 19 - Visiting the Sick - Bikur Cholim

Everyone is obligated to visit the sick. Even dignified and revered people should visit simple people. If necessary we should visit the patient even several times a day, the more the better, as long as we are careful not to burden the patient.



We are striving to love our fellow Jews by improving the way we interact with others.



Last week’s Stretch of the WeekThis week when speaking with any child or student, make sure all guidance and rebuke come in the form of private conversation.

Please allow ONE person to share her experience with this exercise for ONE minute.


Lesson #19

Visiting the Sick

(Bikur Cholim)



One of the ways we emulate our Creator is by visiting the sick. When we do so, by attending to their needs and praying for their recovery, we fulfill two positive commandments; “Love your fellow Jew as you love yourself” and “You should walk in His ways”. Everyone is obligated to visit the sick.  Even dignified and revered people should visit simple people.  If necessary we should visit the patient even several times a day, as long as we are careful not to burden the patient.  Keep in mind, however, that when a person becomes ill, it is usually not beneficial for him to have all types of visitors come and go indiscriminately.  Relatives and close friends who spend time with the patient regularly should visit him immediately as he relies on their help and benefits from their company even when he is weak.  Less familiar acquaintances would do better to wait until three days have passed before visiting the patient.  However, if he takes a sudden turn for the worse, then even more distant friends should visit him without delay. 

The mitzvah of visiting the sick is not limited to matters relating to physical and/or medical assistance but include addressing the person’s emotional needs and praying for his recovery.  Even if a patient is obviously being well-tended by family or hospital staff, and there is nothing for us to do to support him physically, we would still be obliged to visit him; he still is in need of our prayers and emotional support.  If we are not able to visit the sick person, we should still try to send a message, letter, or give him a call.  Even though this may not be a complete fulfillment of the mitzvah, it accomplishes its purpose and is certainly a welcome kindness.

(Excerpts from The Code of Jewish Conduct by Rabbi Yitzchok Silver)

Story: (based on a true story)

Fortunately, for most of my life, I have been able to give to others.  However, there was a time in my own life that G-d decided I needed to be a recipient instead of a giver.  Even though it was so painful to be in need of assistance, I decided to make it a point to learn from the experience so as to improve my own capacity to give.

My baby was a few weeks old and things that would normally roll off my back were suddenly a source of tremendous anxiety and tension.  Slowly I felt myself being sucked into a place of sadness and desperation.  I tried to talk myself out of it and say it would pass, but over the next couple of weeks I started feeling progressively worse I kept it all to myself.  I was embarrassed that I was overwhelmed. I was ashamed that simply attempting to make dinner felt like running a marathon without any training. 

I finally confided in a good friend and shared the feelings that I was having.  She told me that she once went through this as well and knew exactly what to do.  After sharing my feelings with my husband and visiting my obstetrician, I was diagnosed with post-partum depression and was told to take it easy.  Additionally, there were several other forms of treatment I could consider, including therapy and medication.  I was instructed to hire babysitters, extra cleaning help and do anything I could to ease my load until I felt stronger.  There was nothing I wanted more than to feel stable, so I could take care of my family once again.

A few weeks passed and I actually started feeling a little better.  My life basically consisted of trying to eat, trying to sleep and trying to not be consumed with worry about how I would ever cope again.  How did I survive this time period?  How did I eventually come to a place of total health and renewed strength?  Obviously, I know it was G-d who sent the challenge and that He would send the remedy.  Although the therapy and medication played a part, there was one part of my recovery process that was most significant.  Two of my best friends, who are so caring, empathic and giving, decided to split the day in half.  One of them would come every morning and the other would come every afternoon, just to sit with me and hear me express my concerns, worries, and fears.  Despite their own busy lives they somehow managed to be by my side. Above all, when I actually was back to feeling well, they said they missed being able to spend time with me everyday.  I learned from this experience that there is nothing that can compare to being there for someone during illness or when they are feeling depressed and hopeless.  My friends’ visits saved my life and now that I have this newfound sensitivity and awareness of the importance of what they did for me, I feel I’ve become a much better friend.


Discussion Question Options:

When is the mitzvah of visiting the sick easy and when is it hard?

What are common mistakes made when dealing with people who are ill? 

How can the community be made aware of these mistakes to improve its capacity to fulfill the commandment of visiting the sick properly?

Stretch of the Week:

Visit a sick person this week.  Remember to care for this person’s physical and emotional needs as well as pray for their complete recovery.



Stretch Of The Week